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Sunday, July 12, 2015


I was already in junior high when "Sesame Street" premiered and started knocking my favorite children's shows such as "Captain Kangaroo" off the air with its up-to-date format and a pace more suited to shorter attention spans.  So I didn't really start watching the show until high school and college, when (1) there were only three or four available channels to watch at any one time and (2) my enjoyment of such things in those days was "enhanced" (nudge nudge, wink wink) by certain other factors.

It helped, of course, that the show was designed so that adults as well as kids could enjoy the kooky humor, celebrity cameos, appealing multi-media vignettes, and general sense of fun.  Catching up with some "Sesame Street" all these years later with Warner Home Video's SESAME STREET: COUNT ON ELMO, I find that despite a few changes here and there the show is pretty much just as much fun to watch as ever.

In this particular adventure, there's a continuing storyline about muppets Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, and Abby trying to enter the Count (full name: Count Von Count) into a counting contest without his knowledge by getting him to count things while secretly videotaping it.

The Count, of course, is delighted to count anything, anytime, anywhere.  But the trick, for this inept bunch, is managing to record it on Grover's camera phone.  This leads to several amusing episodes of the Count happily counting all sorts of things (cookies, frog jumps, cheerleading chickens, etc.) while his muppet friends fail in every attempt to record it for posterity.

As a fan of the old Universal horror classics, I've always loved the Count, who is, of course, based on the iconic Bela Lugosi portrayal of Dracula.  I especially like the way lightning flashes, thunder rolls, and creepy organ music plays whenever he finishes counting something and goes into his trademark Lugosi laugh ("Ah ah ah!").

In between these segments there's the usual assortment of live-action and animated bits designed, in this case, to teach kids how to count to twenty.  While the heavy reliance on CGI made me miss the good old days of stop-motion and cel animation, they're all colorful, imaginative, and quite charming in their own way. I was especially pleased to find that one of my old favorites from the 70s, the "Number 12" song, is still being pressed into service. 

The main storyline builds to a suspenseful finale when the Count is late for his own award ceremony--which is attended by a who's who of Sesame Street human and muppet characters--and his friends do what they can to keep the judges from disqualifying him, including several of them actually impersonating the Count (badly).  It all serves to teach us not only how to count to twenty, but how friends can help and support each other in times of need.

In addition to this main hour-long feature, there's an episode of "Elmo's World" which lasts about fifteen minutes and focuses on friendship.  This series, airing at the end of the usual "Sesame Street" time slot, is aimed at younger preschoolers and is breezy fun.  Bill Irwin (POPEYE, EIGHT MEN OUT) and Kristin Chenoweth ("The West Wing", "Glee") appear as Elmo's not-too-bright neighbors Mr. Noodle and his sister Miss Noodle. 

Last but not least, there's another full-length (50 minutes) feature entitled "Pre-School is Cool: ABC’s With Elmo" which does its best to pound the alphabet into young viewers' heads in a fun way.  Grover guest stars as, believe it or not, a professor teaching an alphabet class with Elmo's help.

Other fun segments include a game show hosted by old favorite Guy Smiley called "Hurry Up!  You're Running Out of Time!" (guest starring Gilbert Gottfried as "The Distractor") and an episode which takes place in the late Mr. Hooper's store and features Seth Green as an alphabet delivery man.
If you find yourself watching this with your kids or your nieces or nephews or whatever, or--if you're like me--you actually watch stuff like this by yourself, all it takes to enjoy SESAME STREET: COUNT ON ELMO is to put yourself in the right mindset.  Preschoolers, of course, live in that mindset, and should eat this up like a bowl of tutti-fruitti ice cream with sprinkles on top.

Buy it at the WBShop
Street date: July 7, 2015


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